Band of the Week: Deulgukhwa
Welcome back to another Band of the Week! This week, we feature K-Rock’s most legendary band Deulgukhwa (A Wild Chrysanthemum). Though not active anymore due to the drummer’s (Joo Chankwon) death in 2013, we still feel that not featuring this band would be a disservice to the K-Rock genre. The original members from their 1985 hit “ Haengjin (March)” off of their first album Deulgukhwa I were Jo Inkwon (vocals and guitar), Choi Sungwon (bassist), Joo Chankwon, Jo Deokhwan (original guitarist), and Heo Seonguk (keyboards). Deokhwan left the band after their first album to pursue his own dreams in America. Unfortunately, along with Chankwon, Deokhwan and Seonguk have passed away with the remaining members being Inkwan and Sungwon.
If you have never heard of this band, you’ve either been stuck under a boulder or have never been exposed to classic Korean rock. Their music was groundbreaking for their time during South Korea’s strict militant rule where music had to be approved by the government and there was very little room for creativity. However, Deulgukhwa pushed through those barriers and gave the Korean youth a rebellious outlet. Often their music was banned, but that didn’t stop their fans from attending shows or buying their cassettes. Inkwon’s raspy vocals along with Sungwon’s groovy melodies, Seunguk’s soul-lifting piano skills, and Chankwon’s powerful drums made the band’s sound irresistible to audiences begging for originality. With two other Deulgukhwa albums (Deulgukhwa II and Deulgukhwa III) the band eventually came back in 2013 after Joo’s death with Deulgukhwa featuring new songs such as “Walk on” and “Winter Rain” as well as being a greatest hits album.
Their most famous song, “That’s Only My World,” the second track on their first album is a classic rock ballad which was featured in Reply 1988 and is a favorite of both BIGBANG’s TOP and CNBLUE’s Yonghwa. The song talks about how despite the narrator being called naive and arrogant for pursuing his dreams, his dreams are what he clings to despite the tears. His dreams are his only world, and the narrator has no regrets for trying to attain his desires. The song was an anthem in the mid and late ‘80s and is still played often on Korean radio stations. Jo Inkwon even did a duet with YG artist Lee Hi and the two sang the song beautifully enough to make some audience members shed a few tears.
If you watched the Olympics this year, you might have seen Jo Inkwon’s rendition of The Beatles’ “Imagine,” which he performed with other notable artists. The performance reassured Deulgukhwa fans that their music would live on in the psyche of South Korea’s most distinguished rock bands. No doubt, they would be hard to forget.